March 2, 2021

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Donald Trump impeachment: Senate trial expected to vote to acquit today – live updates

Arwa Mahdawi writes for us this morning on the subject of Andrew Cuomo:

Andrew Cuomo was practically deified by liberals in the early days of the pandemic because, let’s face it, anyone looked amazing compared to the train-wreck that was “try-injecting-bleach” Donald Trump. While Trump was in a state of dithering and denial, Cuomo took charge and was reassuringly direct: people across the US tuned into his daily press briefings. There was speculation Cuomo could be the next president.

Of course, being good on camera doesn’t mean you’re doing a good job on the ground. In recent weeks there have been calls for Cuomo to resign over allegations his administration tried to hide the scope of coronavirus-related nursing home deaths in New York. Two weeks ago, New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, released a report stating nursing home deaths were 50% higher than originally claimed. On Friday damning new allegations of a cover-up emerged. The New York Post reported it had obtained a recording of one of Cuomo’s top aides admitting the administration withheld data on nursing home deaths because it was worried the Department of Justice would investigate state misconduct.

It has always been obvious to anyone paying attention that Cuomo is a mini-Trump. He has the same appetite for authoritarianism as the former president: during the pandemic he has drawn scrutiny for cancelling special elections, issuing executive orders and consolidating power. Like Trump he has nothing but disdain for his detractors, particularly if they happen to be more qualified than he is. The New York Times recently reported that nine top New York health officials have resigned during the pandemic, with many of them telling the Times that Cuomo had asked them to match their health guidance to his decisions. But who needs experts, eh? Not the all-knowing Cuomo. “When I say ‘experts’ in air quotes, it sounds like I’m saying I don’t really trust the experts,” Cuomo said of pandemic policies in a recent news conference. “Because I don’t.”

Read more here: Arwa Mahdawi – Cuomo is a mini-Trump, it’s always been obvious to anyone paying attention

What do Steve Bannon, Rudy Giuliani, Michael Cohen, Mike Pence and Anthony Scaramucci all have in common?

They worked for Donald Trump, obviously, and several have been implicated in alleged crimes connected to the former president, but as of this month, each of these one-time high-profile Trump acolytes also has his own podcast.

Pence became the most recent to announce his own show this week, with the announcement that the oft-derided former vice-president will launch a podcast to “continue to attract new hearts and minds to the conservative cause”.

Like his one-time associates, Pence will enjoy the benefits of a regulation-free platform to share his thoughts on any topic of his choosing, and similarly to Bannon et al, Pence will also be able to keep himself in the public sphere – although the dry, mild-mannered Pence is likely to differ in tone from the Bannons and Giulianis of the podcast world.

On his War Room podcast, Bannon has called for the beheading of Anthony Fauci – something Pence is unlikely to do – while Giuliani’s Common Sense podcast has been used to further often unhinged claims of political fraud, which Pence might leave alone.

Cohen and Scaramucci’s podcasts, which are critical of Trump, may not fit in with the Trump worshippers’ efforts, but the fact that five of Trump’s most prominent acolytes chose this format for propagating their views – over television, radio or the written word – is pretty remarkable.

So, why podcasts? One major factor is one of the oldest in politics: money.

“I think in part it’s because it’s an easier medium to get into than something like radio or television. The overhead costs are much much lower. If you have an avid base, and the Trump base tends to be an avid base, you can make a ton of money doing this,” Nicole Hemmer, author of Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics, said.

“If you have audience of just 35,000 people, you can make a profitable podcast,” Hemmer said. “If you have an audience of 100,000 people, now you’re starting to talk real money.”

Read more of Adam Gabbatt’s report here: Sounds about right: why podcasting works for Pence, Bannon and Giuliani

Proud progressive Jamie Raskin finds himself lead prosecutor in the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump. Senators, pundits and millions of TV viewers have heard his deceptively soothing tones eviscerate the former president.

They were doubly awed when he wove together the political and the personal to share unfathomable grief: his 25-year-old son, Tommy, killed himself on New Year’s Eve after years of struggle with depression. Tommy was buried on 5 January – the day before a violent mob mounted a deadly insurrection at the US Capitol.

Raskin, 58, also told how his daughter Tabitha and son-in-law Hank accompanied him to the Capitol that day – and had to hide under a desk.

“They thought they were going to die,” he said, his voice cracking as he recalled apologising to Tabitha, 23, for putting her in danger. In a trial focused on the excesses of a would-be strongman, Raskin’s very human displays of vulnerability have the quality of redemption.

Jamie Raskin, answers a question from Sen. John Cornyn during the second impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump.

Jamie Raskin, answers a question from Sen. John Cornyn during the second impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump. Photograph: AP

Jared Huffman, a co-founder with Raskin of the Congressional Freethought Caucus, said: “Who knew that almost immediately after that tragic day he would get this assignment and pretty quickly begin working full time on something of such historic importance? Maybe that has helped him to cope with the loss but I think the concern for those of us that are friends with Jamie is that, when this is all over, there could be a pretty hard fall back to grief and he’s going to need a lot of support.”

Raskin has politics in his blood. His father, Marcus Raskin, was a young aide in John F Kennedy’s White House, a fierce activist against the Vietnam war and co-founder of the progressive thinktank the Institute for Policy Studies. His mother, Barbara Bellman, was a journalist and novelist.

Raskin graduated from Georgetown day school in 1979 then studied at Harvard and its law school, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review and his teachers included Professor Laurence Tribe. Tribe recalls that Raskin and his wife, Sarah, met in his class on the constitution.

“He is one of the most impressive students that I have ever come to know and is also an extremely impressive human being,” he said.

Read more of David Smith’s profile of Jamie Raskin here: ‘The moral centre’: how Jamie Raskin dominated the stage at Trump’s trial

During the the Trump era, the far-right Proud Boys rode high, enjoying presidential support, recruiting thousands of men, and, as the self-nominated nemesis of leftist Antifa activists, participating in a string of violent street altercations around the country.

But now since Trump’s election loss and the aftermath of the 6 January attack on the Capitol in Washington DC, a series of blows dealt by law enforcement, elected officials and their own leaders have shaken the extremist fraternity that the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as a hate group.

The cumulative impact has experts wondering about the Proud Boys’ long-term future.

Since their foundation in 2016 by the far-right Canadian media personality and entrepreneur Gavin McInnes, the all-male group – who wear uniform clothing, enforce bizarre initiation rituals, eschew masturbation, and reward violence with higher degrees of membership – have been an outsized presence on the landscape of pro-Trump extremism, and successful in promoting themselves as the most militant part of his coalition.

But their role in the Capitol insurrection especially has brought far less welcome attention.

Law enforcement agencies have connected at least 10 Capitol arrestees with the Proud Boys in criminal complaints and affadavits. Those charged include leaders like the Florida combat veteran and conspiracy theorist Joe Biggs and Washington state’s Ethan Nordean, whose prominence rose in the group after he was caught on film attacking an antifascist during a 2018 riot in downtown Portland, Oregon.

Biggs – a former employee of Alex Jones’s conspiracy-minded Infowars network – was central in organizing incursions into the city of Portland in 2019 and 2020, each of which drew Fred Perry-clad militants from around the country to confront antifascists and city authorities.

He is now charged with impeding Congress, unauthorized entry to the Capitol, and disorderly conduct.

However, the affidavit supporting the charges also alleges Biggs was involved in extensive radio communications with other Proud Boys on the day. The allegations of coordination between members of the group may hint at more charges to come.

Read more of Jason Wilson’s report here: The decline of Proud Boys: what does the future hold for far-right group?

In eight years, what became the Fight for $15 movement has grown into an international organization that has successfully fought for a rise in minimum wage in states across the US, redefined the political agenda in the US, and acted as a springboard for other movements, including Black Lives Matter. It now stands perilously close to winning one of the biggest worker-led rights victories in decades.

This Tuesday, fast-food workers will walk out again, hoping to push through a change that will affect tens of millions of American workers.

For Alvin Major it all began in a hall in Brooklyn, where union and community activists had convened a meeting of fast-food workers to see what pressure they could bring on an industry notorious for its low wages and poor conditions, and a state that had shown those workers little interest.

With a platform to speak, the workers talked about “how you had to be on food stamps, get rent assistance, all these kinds of things, and we’re working for these companies that are making billions”, said Major.

At one point, a worker showed the burns on his arm he had suffered at work. In a show of solidarity, workers across the room others rolled up their sleeves to show their scars too. Even when injured on the job, workers said, they were too scared to take time off.

This was not how Major imagined America to be when he moved to the US from Guyana in 2000. “In our family, with 14 kids, my dad’s wife never worked a day. My dad used to work, he took care of us, we had a roof over our head, we went to school, we had meals every day, he had his own transportation.”

In America, “the greatest, most powerful and richest country in the history of the world”, he found “[that] you have to work, your wife has to work, when your kids reach an age they have to work – and still you could barely make it”.

Industry lobbying allied to Republican and – until relatively recently – Democratic opposition has locked the US’s minimum wage at $7.25 since the last raise in 2009. Now a raise to $15 looks set to be included in Joe Biden’s $1.9tn Covid relief package – although it will still face fierce opposition.

Read more of Dominic Rushe’s report here: ‘Hopefully it makes history’: Fight for $15 closes in on mighty win for US workers